It’s no secret that when you are diagnosed with cancer that as the saying goes ‘your life flashes before your eyes’. Thoughts of the why’s pour in your mind like an overflowing powerful river that cannot be stopped.
Why me? Why now? Why, why, why?
Why is not the only question permeating your brain the what’s are also exhaustingly present.
What did I do? What could I have done differently? What if the treatments don’t work? What if I die? What will happen to my family? What next? What is happening!!!!???
And sadly, for some including me, what’s the point of life if we are all going to die. Dying young is unfair, children losing their parents is unfair.
I was off work for 2 years and 3 months and during that time I reflected on my life. A big part of my teenage years was spent at an Anglican boarding school called Grenville Christian College in Brockville, Ontario.
After I graduated from GCC in 1991 I was so happy to be leaving and hit the ground running and never looked back until 2007 when the school made national headlines with accusation of abuse which started in 1979 until it closed.
A class action lawsuit for $225 million was filled against GCC’s headmaster Father Farnsworth and other staff for accusations of physical, sexual and psychological abuse.
If you’re wondering why my parents sent me there, they honestly didn’t know. Of course I told them stories about what went on but the staff were master manipulators and experts of covering up, painting a beautiful serene picture for when the parents and guests came around.
I had mixed feelings about Grenville because I loved the idea of being at a boarding school. I thought it was so cool to be living in a dorm, wearing a uniform, eating in a dining hall, going to study hall every night from 7-9pm. This was going to be so much fun!
It was fun, I made it fun. I met great people and forged life long relationships with people from all over the world – China, Europe, Bahamas, Barbados, United States, on and on.
What was not fun was the CULT and prison that Grenville was. I mean this was the late 80s and early 90s and we weren’t allowed to go outside of the front gates, read magazine, have a Walkman so we could listen to music, read certain books, girls had to wear long skirts only – NO PANTS! Jeans were the devil….the list goes on…… Everything was monitored even down to the size of our underwear – no bikini size allowed, only granny style!!
Before we left the dorm we had to show the staff that we had on bras and camisoles, and a slip under our uniforms. This was not a daily occurrence but knowing it could happen any time kept us on our toes. If someone went braless it was a big deal and we giggled feeling like we’ve accomplished some kind of feat…..hahahahaha…you can’t catch me.
Sometimes the phone calls we made to our parents on the Bell payphones in the hallways of the dorms where eavesdropped on and mail was routinely intervened and by intervened I mean opened and read by staff.
Students were encouraged and rewarded for being tattle tales and ratting others out.
We had separate stairwells for the boys and the girls. God forbid if anyone was secretly dating. Kissing would be a cause for being on ‘D’ DISCIPLINE or being permanently expelled.
The thing is, I never witnessed sexual or physical abuse in any way. I did however feel the effects of psychological abuse. I’m NOT saying it didn’t happen it just didn’t happen to me.
I believe the reason I wasn’t prayed upon like others is because I have a strong personality, and typically abusers pray on the weak and vulnerable.
So how did going to Grenville influence my life? Am I a victim of abuse that I’ve supressed? These are real questions for me. One thing I do know and am surprised it’s not the mentioned more often in the media is that as part of the application process, and each year before we were allowed re-entry back to school we all had to be tested for HIV/AIDS.
I was 15 when I started at Grenville, we barely knew what HIV/AIDS was. By the time I was 18 I had been tested 3 times. And I remember my family doctor being baffled at this request.
This requirement would obviously never happen now since it would be against human rights.
Another thing I remember vividly was being asked by staff why was my hair so wild and curly? Ah duh! In other words, and I’m not kidding, they thought it was evil and out of control (my husband thinks that’s true too, but that’s another story lol!). I got so annoyed by this stupid question that I once became very rebellious and replied “because I stick my finger in a socket every morning ok!”. Total idiots, what kind of adult would ask an adolescent why their hair as sooooo curly?
One more thing that sticks out in my mind was the preaching that went on. Girls were told that if they were raped by man it’s because in some way they had asked for it. That we shouldn’t be temptresses or something like that.
Ok thanks Father Farnsworth for your advice – now fuck off and leave us sluts alone to seduce the boys.
I knew what happened there was wrong. We used to joke about one day writing a book or making a movie about it, and low and behold W5 did a documentary and a book has been written by a former student. I remember countless conversation between the ‘cool’ people that no matter how much we explained the experiences to others that no one would ever understand except us.
Wow this is so long….I apologize for that but I wonder if my years at Grenville had an influence on me getting cancer. Was I suppressing something that made me sick? What are the effects of psychological abuse on ones system?
Did one of my cells turn to cancer because of my past?
Again, being a cancer patient ignites never ending internal questions. But who knows? I don’t and never will.